Dr. Kevin Leonard

To learn more about Dr. Leonard:

Read the MSU Today article: Kevin Leonard appointed interim director of MSU's Native American Institute

Read the MSU Voices article: Supporting Indigenous communities beyond the land acknowledgment



Boozhoo! Mino Oshki Biboon! I hope everyone was able to enjoy some rest and relaxation during the holidays. Although time often becomes a blur this time of year, the staff of the Native American Institute (NAI) and I have been busy moving to our new offices within University Outreach and Engagement and are making excellent strides toward our objectives. For instance, we are close to beginning the collection of feedback from our Tribal Communities and partners on and off campus that will help develop a strategic plan to guide NAI into the future. These outreach efforts will bring the staff of NAI into many of your communities. We are looking forward to renewing old and establishing new relationships between Michigan State University and our Indigenous Communities throughout the state.

If you would like to provide input on the future of the NAI, inquire about NAI collaborations, programming opportunities, or services, or promote Native/Indigenous-related programming on or off campus, please do not hesitate to call our office at (517) 355-0124 or email us at nai@msu.edu.


Kevin P. Leonard, Ph.D.
Interim Director
Native American Institute
University Outreach and Engagement



Stay Strong MSU

A cold and quiet evening on the beautiful campus of Michigan State University was shattered by the sound of gunshots as events unfolded that have forever changed the lives of numerous Spartans, their friends, and families. As we remember and honor the lives of our fellow Spartans Arielle Anderson (Grosse Pointe), Brian Fraser (Grosse Pointe), and Alexandria Verner (Clawson), who were taken from their families and our community way too soon, and as we offer asemaa and burn sage as we pray for the speedy recovery of the five other Spartans (Troy Forbush, John Hao, Guadalupe Huapilla-Perez, Nate Statly, and one other) who were wounded during this senseless act of violence, I ask everyone to pause for a moment. Please take a moment before once again offering thoughts and prayers and ask: Why do mass shootings continue to happen and what can we do to change it? In my humble opinion, this new norm is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that our students, our children, and our grandchildren, who once practiced fire drills, now practice sheltering in place and learn to run, hide, or fight in preparation for an active shooter. Society can do better; we must do better.

It will take time, but Spartans are resilient, and we are stronger together. As we have seen over the past few weeks, the Spartan Nation in East Lansing, across the state, country, and world has pulled together to support one another through this tragedy. That strength will help us all heal. Although we will never forget, our Spartan community will get through this and emerge stronger and prouder than ever!

If you would like to donate to the Spartan Strong Fund or help some of those wounded in the attack, see the links below. We have confirmed the GoFundMe pages are legitimate as there have been some reports of scammers trying to make money off this tragedy.

Additional Sources of Information and Reflections


What is Happening with the Native American Institute?

As mentioned in the December issue of this newsletter, we are preparing to assess the needs and wants of our state’s Tribal Nations, Tribal Colleges, and other constituents on and off campus. This information will be used to develop a strategic plan that will help guide the direction of the NAI moving forward and the selection of the full-time director of the program.

In December, we sought bids from external research firms to assist NAI staff in the collection of feedback and data from our Tribal Nations, Tribal Colleges, and other community partners on and off campus. The selection committee reviewed the applications and in late January approved a firm to move forward in the contract negotiation. The firm met each of the stated criteria, including knowledge of TEK and/or Indigenous/culturally appropriate research methods; experience working with Indigenous people, Tribal Nations, or Tribal Governments; reliability, relatability, and presentation skills; and service fees/costs.

Contract negotiations were successful, with both parties reaching agreement in late February. Thus, it brings me pleasure to introduce to you Grassroots Solutions, a woman-led and majority women-owned firm. Focusing their work through a JEDI lens (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion), Grassroots Solutions is recognized as a leader in strategy, evaluation, and capacity-building. The staff of the NAI look forward to working with Christina Kuo (principal) and Misty Blue (evaluation project manager) and their team.

Due to the slight delay in securing a research firm, the data/feedback gathering stage of this process will now occur between March 2023 and June 2023. During this stage, Grassroots Solutions will transcribe notes from these meetings and share them with the communities/individuals surveyed for their feedback and input. Once transcripts are finalized, they will be incorporated into a final report for the provost and associate provost for University Outreach and Engagement. The findings will be used to provide a direction for the NAI moving forward. The firm will also help draft a position description for the director of the NAI and help us identify the individual best suited to lead the Institute by the end of fall semester 2023.

Change in UOE Leadership

From left to right: Laurie Van Egeren, Kwesi Brookins

Not only are there many changes happening with the Native American Institute, but change is also happening within University Outreach and Engagement (UOE). December 31, 2022, marked the final day of Dr. Laurie Van Egeren’s term as interim associate provost for University Outreach and Engagement, a role she had graciously and effectively filled since 2018.

During this time, Dr. Van Egeren restructured UOE to effectively achieve its mission to facilitate engaged scholarship among faculty, staff, students, and community partners. She led the University’s COVID response for community-based activities, engaging over 120 representatives from the university and broader community to provide guidance on practice and policies during the pandemic. Dr. Van Egeren also developed a series of supports for grant development and implementation for the National Science Foundation’s broader impacts criteria to integrate social impact into funded projects, in addition to holding leadership positions in several national organizations that represent engagement and societal impact, including election as president of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium.

She also welcomed the Native American Institute into UOE and worked closely with MSU administration and the MSU Native Community to ensure the continuation of this office and the services it provides. Please join me in thanking Dr. Van Egeren for her service to UOE and MSU and in wishing her continued success as she returns to her position as assistant provost for University-Community Partnerships within UOE.

Dr. Kwesi (pronounced Kway-Si) Brookins joined University Outreach and Engagement as its new associate provost on January 1, 2023. Dr. Brookins returns to his alma mater after serving as vice provost for University Outreach and Engagement and director of the Center for Family and Community Engagement at North Carolina State University. He brings many years of experience as an administrator and leader in outreach and engagement work. He was the lead organizer and author of North Carolina State’s Civic Action Plan, served as a member of the Community of Engaged Faculty Fellows, and is a charter member of the Academy of Outstanding Faculty in Extension and Engagement. A returning Spartan who earned both his doctorate in ecological/community psychology and a Master of Arts in psychology from MSU, Dr. Brookins says that the Native American Institute was one of the things that attracted him to the position and that he looks forward to continuing to support the efforts of the NAI moving forward. Please join me in giving Dr. Kwesi Brookins a warm welcome back home to MSU!

Read MSU Today article announcing Dr. Brookins' appointment


Michigan Diversity Council Presentation Featuring Interim Director Leonard

March 7, 2023, 12 – 1:30 p.m.

Dr. Leonard will be presenting virtually to the Michigan Diversity Council for their chapter meeting. His presentation, titled "Native Americans in the Workplace: Beyond Land Acknowledgements," will focus on the obligations that come with land acknowledgements in supporting a company's Indigenous employees as well as the sovereignty of local Tribal Nations.

Register here

WDET - NPR Interview

On December 13, 2022, Dr. Leonard was interviewed by Tia Graham of Weekend Edition and CultureShift on WDET – NPR. He spoke with Tia on the importance of land acknowledgements, the obligations that come with them, and ways in which people can learn more about the Indigenous people of Michigan as well as supporting Native-owned businesses.

Listen to the WDET interview


Michigan Indian Leadership Program (MILP)

July 9 – 14, 2023

After being unable to hold MILP over the past two summers due to COVID-19, it is a pleasure to announce that MILP is back for the summer of 2023! This program, coordinated by Ms. Stephanie Chau (member, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians/Citizens), assistant director for undergraduate diversity, is a one-week indigenized summer experience sponsored by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education at MSU.

What is MILP?

MILP is designed to give Native American youth the opportunity to learn about college, experience life on a university campus, and explore the many exciting educational opportunities in agriculture, food sciences, natural resources, and related fields.

Who participates in MILP?

MILP is designed primarily for Native American youth entering grades 8-12 and other students with a strong interest and involvement in Native American culture and community.

What will I do as a MILP participant?

You will participate in demonstrations, tours, and other hands-on activities designed to give a sampling of what the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has to offer. You will also participate in several other educational, cultural, and social activities.

Evening activities include social time, cultural presentations, and traditional arts such as black ash basket making, beadwork, Indigenous games, or porcupine quill work. MILP participants live on campus in university dorm rooms and eat meals in the dining hall to get a feel for what college life is like. Like many college students on campus, you will do lots of walking every day.

MILP is free for all accepted applicants. This year's program will be held July 9 through July 14, 2023.

Applications are due April 7, 2023.

Learn more about MILP and apply

Ginoojimomin Apii Dibaajimoyang/Our Stories Heal

April 6, 2023, 6 – 8 p.m., Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, Auditorium

In 2021, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. This initiative, which includes gathering records from the boarding school era and compiling an official list of boarding school sites, makes visible on a national scale the intergenerational impact federal Indian boarding schools have had on Tribal Communities. This one-day symposium honors that work on a local scale, providing MSU and the Greater Lansing community an opportunity to learn about the intergenerational trauma caused by federal Indian boarding school policies. Attendees will hear firsthand from boarding school survivors and others who can provide the legal, social, and historical context of boarding schools. Through coming together in community to share stories and voices, the symposium looks to provide a space for knowledge and healing.

Learn more and register here

Submit your programs and events

The Native American Institute would like to help promote Indigenous programming, events, powwows, and social gatherings in future newsletters and/or on social media. If you would like your event reviewed for promotion, please submit a brief write-up that includes title of the event, date, time, location, and other pertinent information, as well as related flyers or images, to nai@msu.edu.